By Owami Sithole
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission slams sexual harassment of women in workplaces, tertiary institutions and in public places in celebration of 16 days of activism against gender based violence.
The Chairperson of Gender Commission Mrs Margaret Mukahanana Sangarwe made the remarks as the institution celebrated the 28th anniversary of the commemorations running under universal theme “Gender based Violence in the World of Work”.
Zimbabwe celebrated under the theme, “Creating Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”.
Mrs Mukahanana Sangarwe went on to say that the commission is to visit ten provinces in the country where it will engage the private and public sectors to spread the message of zero tolerance to sexual harassment.
“Sometimes women may not know that they are being sexually harassed. They suffer silently. Sexual harassment may come in different forms. It could be physical, rape and forced unprotected sex that is also categorised as sexual harassment. Harassment can also be emotional. Even jokes which may make women feel uncomfortable are a form of harassment. Women may not know what steps to take. We encourage women to report these cases as some are threatened to lose their jobs. In tertiary institutions, female students are sometimes threatened to fail examinations,” Mrs Mukahanana Sangarwe said.
The commission received various reported cases of sexual harassment of women from Parliament, tertiary institutions, public places and this has made it to come up with strategies on how to play the advocacy role in curbing issues of sexual harassment of women.
“As a commission we are to come up with a legal framework for work places. We opted to put some suggestion boxes in tertiary institutions and public places. This will help to curb issues of sexual harassment of women. We cannot rule out that men are facing sexual harassment. It is only that of women that has been overwhelming because of unequal power relations and gender inequality. We are also to engage in public awareness campaigns at provincial level so that these cases can be dealt with,” she said.
Currently, the commission is working with five Universities which are University of Zimbabwe, Midlands State University, Great Zimbabwe University, National University of Sciences and Technology and Africa University.
“In academic institutions, female students face sexual harassment from male staffers at the campuses. We received a report on allegations of sexual harassment from Midlands State University. We went on to engage the management as well as the Vice Chancellor and as a commission we already started working on the issue. As we are monitoring this particular issue as well as the whole university on sexual harassment.”